Updated: Aug 13, 2020
Just about the time we think the fog has cleared in the “football ecosystem," BOOM, it returns with a vengeance! Hiding behind rocks has become the new norm for covid-19. It refuses to let us think we can deal with this pandemic and feel semi-good about a plan to go forward.
With NFL teams, all technically in training camp, even though very little football is being played, their process of testing and daily workouts is progressing. We had 69 opt-outs at the time of the deadline, not a crazy number in my opinion. The reserve list for COVID-19 positive tests continues to fluctuate, again, not a surprise. With the regular season one month away teams are settling in to their own team-created bubbles. Conditioning work continues- OTA type practices are the next step, even that can be done without a full squad participating together while we continue to perfect the testing process. Two weeks of full team practices will follow that as teams make final cuts and prepare for the regular season. Right now, in the NFL, there is really no reason for short term re-evaluating. Of course, just writing this will probably put the jinx on that.
But the rest of the football world- well that’s another story.
College football, as we are now finding out, is in total disarray. FCS and other non-Division I programs are mostly all taking a hiatus until the spring of 2021. Even the Power 5 conferences, once thought to be untouchable, are now having to reconsider and may follow suit- into a season likely to start next spring. For the purpose of drawing a line in the sand-anything you read below assumes that there will be no college football in the fall of 2020. If they resurrect their fall campaign, we will take that as great news and you can hit the delete button on this column.
If college football punts its seasons to 2021, next spring will be absolute chaos on campuses around our great nation. All sports, and you might as well throw college basketball in there as well, will be in full bloom. TV networks won’t know what game to show first or next. Every collegiate sport, all happening at once.
From an NFL stand-point, “this” fall (if they can continue to pull it off) will be a ratings bonanza. With no college ball, you will see NFL games on Saturday for sure, maybe even Thursday and Friday nights to go with their regular Sunday schedule, and the Monday night game. Keep this in mind though. After mid-October (NBA/NHL will be done) and even more-so, after the first week of November, post-election, with no college football, TV slots are there for the taking, especially for sports. Are you listening XFL?
If the newly purchased XFL, could get its ducks lined up quickly and create an 8-team bubble in 2 Texas cities, say 4 in Houston and 4 in San Antonio- where high school and college facilities will be generating spider webs from inactivity, they might just have the whole dance floor to themselves. They can jump into these TV slots created by the college conferences bailing on the fall. Play a 10-week schedule, with 2 playoff weeks, just like XFL 2.0 had planned. Even allowing draft eligible college athletes a window to get paid some money to play instead of doing nothing for 8 months and preparing for the draft (which is totally overrated). If I’m a late round pick or a free agent, I’m playing, make 70k, to increase my draft stock. The only way that happens is if they can get on film and build their resume.
Do it between say November 1 and the end of January. You don’t think Fox TV would now love some football content, live games, presented to them in a nice pretty package? Fox just lost Pac 12 and Big 10 completely for the fall. Limit roster size to 50 and a 10-man practice squad- limit total personnel to 100 per team (you might be able to cut it to 80) and you’ve got 100 people, maximum, per team, operating in a bubble of 400 total, in each city. Everyone can play games in two stadiums- travel between cities which would only happen twice, if the schedule is done correctly, could be done on a bus. Sorry, I digressed.☺ Tell me why it wouldn’t work?
The pushback of the college season to the spring, will affect the NFL draft in all likelihood. According to the CBA between the players and the owners a college-draft must be held no later than June 2, each year. We can make that call now. Get a one year amendment that pushes it back two weeks. Have the draft mid-June. NFL teams can be ready by then. Most NFL teams have a collection of reports and grades process that happens all during an active fall season anyway- just do it in the spring. The combine will be somewhat of a hurdle but we just might have to do that in two different locations and ASAP at seasons end. We already proved that pro-days are overrated, this past draft cycle, so why worry about that charade. Save the money of all the individual pro days and expand the combine to 450 players. We are talking one year people, not changes for life.
Of course, it’s not all this simple but hey, I’m excited again. These are crazy times so we need to look at crazy answers at times. With some thought, some positives can all come from ALL this and together we can figure it all out. Oh-shoot, don’t talk to me about the “College Bowl Games” :)